Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Inside The House On First Street

Visual Vamp and her camera

Have you ever walked by a house a thousand times, loving it on the outside, and wishing that one day you might be invited in?

Well that's how I felt about 'The House On First Street" after I read the book with that title by Julia Reed. It's a pre and post Katrina story of the love affair Julia and her husband John have with each other and with New Orleans, and their adventure in renovating an old house in the Garden District.

Julia Reed with her beagle Henry

The home has been included on a house tours, and I am surprised that more photos of the beautiful interior design haven't been published.

Julia says: "We looked for a year, spending the majority of our weekends crisscrossing the neighborhood block by block, house, by house. Finally we found it, the house we knew should be ours, on the corner of First and Chestnut."

The House on First Street
1847 Greek Revival
Come on in!

I got into the house, not by stalking and knocking on the door (though the thought did cross my mind), but as the "plus-one" of fellow blogger Bill from Tennessee. He was in New Orleans for an important art opening, and you can read all about it on his blog Affordable Accoutrements HERE.

Not only did he get me into the house for Sunday brunch, he got permission for us to take some photos! Lately I have been taking less and less photos at blogger meet ups. I feel like living the moments rather than reporting on them, and I think after you blog for a long while you evolve a bit, not always having to go for the photo op. What about you guys? Do you take less photos in social situations, as time goes on in your blogging life?

The wide baseboards in the house are painted black
But at the windows they are painted white

So I was a little shy about taking photos in a house filled with people I didn't know, not wanting to infringe on their privacy. But I couldn't resist sharing this house with you all, so Bill and I tried not to take photos with people in them, and I concentrated on some of the lovely details.

A gallery wall of antique maps on the stairway wall

Julia could not have been nicer, and her husband John took Bill and me on the house tour, telling us about the art and showing us some of his favorite things. Their beagle Henry tagged along.

In the Entry Hall an antique bench covered in linen
All the ladies dropped their purses here

The first thing that took my breath away are the green walls. I had read about them in the book, and in fact had this color green in my living room in my old apartment on Octavia Street.

The Living Room (Front Parlor) has it all
Saturated wall color, gorgeous silk drapes, antique chandelier

Julia writes about paint color: "I was well versed in the subtle differences between Farrow & Ball's 'Straw,' 'String,' and 'Matchstick' paint colors."

Detail of a vibrant insect print soon to be hung
John and Julia collect nature specimens

She had to paint the walls several times using Farrow & Ball "Sutcliffe Green" to get it right, because the painters kept doing a shoddy job.

She says: "I spent a thousand dollars on shipping and paint I ordered all the way from their North American plant in Canada, before I realized the local Benjamin Moore store could easily color match Farrow & Ball, but then that was before I realized a whole lot of stuff."

The Regency Chinoiserie benches
Julia put them on layaway before she bought a house

More from Julia: "I'd been preparing for owning some house, somewhere, sometime for so long that I'd saved every World of Interiors and House and Garden magazine since I was twenty.
More than a year before I laid eyes on the house, I had bought (on the layaway plan at a local antique store) the pair of gilt Regency benches I now knew would go in the front parlor."

The black marble fireplaces are original
Julia added the gilt mirror above it

From the Front Parlor is the Back Parlor, used as a Music Room by John and Julia.

The Music Room with John's grand piano

Cozy chintz chairs are pulled up to another black marble fireplace. Lovely paintings grace the walls. A well worn antique side table with a lovely patina, displays bibelots (interesting little objects) that beckon you for a closer look. There is another beautiful plaster ceiling medallion in this room, and Bill wondered if the lack of chandelier was intentional, and then we both laughed and said that the perfect one just hasn't been found yet

The Music Room is another grand parlor
A mirror image of the Front Parlor

The spectacular plaster medallion in the Music Room
It's waiting for the perfect chandelier to come along

Antique side table in the Music Room

Antique scrimshaw coconuts given to Julia by John
Decorative coconuts are meaningful in New Orleans
John loves to give Julia some extra special ones

Cozy chintz chairs in the Music Room

Black marble fireplace in the Music Room

Julia and John's library is just what you would think a house like this would have.

Julia and Henry the beagle in The Library
They got Henry after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
For them, Henry is what made the house complete

Julia says that they transformed the once hideous dark wood panels (which turned out to be pieces of plywood and old flooring stained a dull mahogany) into a lighter and much more beautiful faux bois.

Tortoise shells hanging on the bookshelves

John and Julia collect nature specimens, and bird paintings, prints, and drawings which are featured in the library, and scattered throughout the house.

A piece of red coral on a book on the coffee table

The book shelves are jammed back with books and intriguing objects, among them a collection of Zulu Coconuts, and an antique scrimshaw coconut collection John started giving Julia as gifts.

The bookshelves are jammed packed with good stuff

Love the lamp and the drinks tray in The Library

The faux bois paneling in The Library

Linen floral drapes and an oriental rug in The Library

Comfy sofa and Chinoiserie coffee table

The Kitchen is huge and it was bustling as brunch was readied for serving. Julia, who is a very well versed foodie, made the grits for this huge crowd for brunch. It was her special recipe of shrimp and grits, and it was fantastic.

Julia said that when she first saw the house she was happy to see "the requisite big kitchen with an enormous commercial stove (one of the very few things in the almost 6,000 square-foot house that did not need to be replaced).

Julia in her Kitchen

Next to the Kitchen is a Butlers Pantry that would make Eddie Ross ecstatic, and through that the dining room.

Bar set-up in the Butler's Pantry

The Dining Room went through a parade of paint colors. "Before it was all over we put at least ten coats of paint, including two shades of coral, one shade of gray, three shades of brown, and four shades of blue."

The Dining Room
The table seats twenty four

Julia says, "We had already bought a dining table that seats twenty-four from Patrick Dunne."

A painting in the Dining Room commissioned by John and Julia
It depicts their favorite things

Chinoiserie sideboard in the the Dining Room
Love the open shelves to show off the silver

A bird painting in the Dining Room
John calls it "Blue Balls"

In the Dining Room with Bill and Julia
Okay, okay I'm so happy and smiling so hard I got Chinoiserie eyes!

On the other side of the Kitchen is a cheery Sunroom.
Julia says that, "Our version became a comfortable Sunroom with French windows that actually open and bookshelves on the opposite wall."

The comfortable Sunroom
Is that the Bennison " Crewelwork" linen?

Julia said that she had been carrying around a swatch of Bennison "Crewelwork" linen like a talisman for almost fifteen years.

Antique chairs and antique pots in the Sunroom

Bird painting hanging on the bookshelf in the Sunroom

In the Sunroom Henry is winking at me!
He 's telling me he's gonna get my ham and biscuit!
You can see a bit of Bennison crewel linen Julia loves

After a great meal, refreshing libations, sparkling conversation, and a special peak into this lovely home, it was time to say goodbye to our hosts.

John Pearce, Henry, and Visual Vamp Valorie Hart
On the front porch of The House On First Street

When I told one of my clients that I had just been to The House On First Street, she asked if I really liked it. I told her I loved it, and she was surprised since it is such a classic decor scheme.

The client identifies me with perch., which is perceived as a hip store. That it is, but what we do so well is the mix of the classic with the modern.

Sure Julia and John's house doesn't have any Kartell or Mooi, but it still has a fresh of-the-moment feeling. The great saturated colors, and well edited furnishings keep the house from being a museum piece.

Now your turn Bill!

I hoped you enjoyed this house tour. I am hoping to go back again and photograph the gardens on a cooler day, because that incredible renovation is another epic story.

If you haven't read "The House On First Street" by Julia Reed, do get it HERE. It is captivating, especially for all you visual vamps out there. If you have read the book, I hope I gave you a little glimpse to go along with Julia's words.

Visual Vamp in front of Julia Reed's house in The Garden District

Visual Vamp on her porch in The Irish Channel
Just four blocks from The House On First Street
Worlds apart but still the same great New Orleans
Come in anytime!

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  1. Love, love, love house tours!! Thanks!

  2. Hi Valorie,

    It was great fun seeing this wonderful house again through your eyes! I particularly liked the way you described the photos via your perceptions and quotes from Julia's book. Nicely done, as always!


  3. Love the benches bought on layaway! The whole house is gorgeous. But, please, where is the recipe for the shrimp and grits for a northern girl like me who need step by step instructions?

    P.S. Henry is adorable

  4. Love it, thank you! I read her book and knew if I could ever see what it looked like I would love it. Its impressive in its beautiful decor as well as being filled with personal touches that take it from being a grand house to a lovely home.

    And of course, there's Henry the adorable Beagle to love. Was he successful in conning you out of the ham and biscuit?

  5. Mimi here's a ;ink for the recipe!
    It's long but just copy and paste it.
    xo xo

  6. Carollyn,
    Henry got alot of ham & biscuits from everybody LOL

  7. I love a house tour....especially of one I have passed a million times, but never had the opportunity to enter! :)
    Thanks, Vamp!

  8. Oh wow, what a treat! Thanks so much for taking us inside :)

  9. Wow - great blog! So glad I found you :)

  10. Your house is just as chariming V....and represents New Orleans perfectly, just as Julia's house does. You looked adorable and super chic all in white with your cowhide(?) purse taking the stage!

    Anyhoo...the house is beautiful and it's a very special treat to be able to tour it, thanks for taking us with you. And...B.M. isn't F&B...the chalkiness makes it all worth it and gives the old world feel that's so wonderful in an historic home, the green is lovely (and Henry's the bomb)!
    xo J~

  11. What a tour! What a house! I think it's time I check on flights to NOLA!!!!
    xo elizabeth

  12. you get to do the best shit!
    great tour, thank you..

  13. Beautiful post! The green repeated throughout the house really makes it flow. I'm inspired to work on a post on that! Julia has my favorite art I have ever seen. The commissioned painting is stunning and collections make a house into a home. I'm glad I found you through Cote de Texas!!

  14. Just wandered in from 5th and State's blog. What a delightful side trip! Your descriptions and pictures and quotes from the book will have me daydreaming for hours and then hopping out to find this book, which I thing will be a great gift for a friend who spent most of her childhood vacations at her aunt's house not far from where you live now. I'l give it to her - after I read it first, tee hee!

  15. What a lovely home. Lucky you!

    Eddie & Jaithan

  16. you are so lucky to be surrounded by such southern beauty.

    what a home!!!


  17. you are so lucky to be surrounded by such southern beauty.

    what a home!!!


  18. Glad you are all enjoying the tour!
    Jenny, It pays to know people in low places ha ha.

    Pretty Pink, Your guest room awaits you at Casa Vamp!

    Life On The and Dovecote, welcome to the party!

    xo xo

  19. Valerie, great post. I wish we could have seen more of the kitchen. It is refreshing to see color once again, both on the walls and in the fabrics. Classic never goes out of style particularly with a home of this style and cultural importance.

  20. Hi Anon,
    I wish I could have taken pictures in the kitchen too, but it was filled with staff working hard, and the last thing they would want is a camera in their way.
    xo xo

  21. What a fab place and yes you get to do ALL the fun stuff. I tried calling you today...perhaps this is where you were!

  22. Jury duty Renae. I'll be at the shop tomorrow.
    Can't wait to have fun with YOU again!
    xo xo

  23. Wow!! Thanks for taking us on the "tour"!! It is an amazing house. Just beautiful.

    I'm kind of like you - whenever I'm out somewhere like that, I always feel a little weird just whipping out my camera. Either that or I totally just forget. ;-)

    And now that I know what your house looks like, I might have to make my husband go on a hunt for it with me when we're down there for Halloween!! Not stalker-y or anything, I just think your house is pretty amazing too!

  24. Lovely, lovely house. And so New Orleans. I bet those gorgeous green walls are amazing by candlelight.

  25. Love that Henry and that painting of the red birdie.
    Pretty sweet spots for a sweet you and special friends.

  26. Great images and tour Val! (LOVE your bag BTW!) The winking dog was adorable - and loving the Food Styling book spoted on a shelf! (something I'd love to learn about!).

    Been thinking of you very much lately - due to all the news coverage of NoLA and Katrina... and just thought you should know...

    Blessings to you and Alberto!
    :D Lynda